Lighting products supplier Wen Binguo, based in Zhongshan's Guzhen Town, one of China's leading manufacturing bases for lighting products, has seen exports drop over the past few months and he says strict new European Union standards are to blame.
"The European Union has so many compulsory restrictions related to lighting products that I can hardly manage to have a thorough understanding of them," he said.
Wen, in his 50s, runs a medium-sized lighting products company. Decorative lighting products dominate his product range. His company relies heavily on overseas orders, including those from the European Union, the United States and Southeast Asia.
"I began to feel the pressure of business decline early this year," he said. "Several of my partners in Europe told me that I have to modify my products in order to meet the compulsory standards on Christmas lighting products, which came into effect in February."
The new standards impose strict safety restrictions on Christmas lighting products in terms of power leakage, temperature and breakage.
"I've become very cautious about orders from the European Union for Christmas lighting products and I'm trying to improve my products to conform with the standards."
He said the new standards caused his exports to the European Union to drop about 30 percent in the first five months of this year, but he did not disclose the exact figure.
"What is making me out of breath now is the initiative of RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances)."
The RoHS directive, effective from July, requires all products to be certified as not exceeding set levels of six known pollutants: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl, and polybrominated diphenyl ether.
"I'm afraid my export cost will increase about 10 percent in order to meet the requirement of the RoHS directive."
Wen said that he has to choose raw materials that meet the standards and must pay for testing of the raw materials as well as for the related certifications.
But for Yang Yanmei, general manager of EME Lighting (Zhongshan) Co Ltd, the RoHS directive will not affect exports of her lighting products to the European Union too much.
"My company has been focusing on high-end markets at home and abroad," she said. "What we need to do is to test the raw materials and apply for the necessary certifications."
However, she complained that the fees levied on related certifications do increase the export costs.
"Guangdong's exports of lighting products to the European Union will definitely nosedive this year," Yu Zhongjie, secretary of the provincial lighting industry association, told China Daily.
"The directive of WEEE (Waste from Electrical & Electronic Equipment), which took effect last year, has increased some export costs of lighting products in the province as a whole.
"The compulsory standard for Christmas lighting products has influenced about 2,000 related companies in the province in their exports to the European Union; and the practice of the RoHS directive will make the case even worse soon," Yu added.
"Most of the lighting products manufacturers in the province can not afford apparatus testing of the components, and they cannot promise their products are up to the standard prescribed in the RoHS directive," he said.
"They will have a lot more to do, say choosing new component suppliers, and applying for different certifications, even for the components."
He said that another directive, the framework directive for setting eco-design requirements for Energy-using Products, will further challenge the lighting products suppliers in the province.
The new framework directive, which manufacturers will be obligated to comply with from July, urges manufacturers to consider the entire life cycle of product groups as well as making an ecological assessment from raw materials, acquisition, manufacturing, packaging, transport and distribution, installation and maintenance.
(China Daily June 14, 2006)